(05/105) TRENTON-The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in partnership with the nonprofit conservation and local government groups, acquired an 852-acre open space parcel known as the Culvermere Property in Frankford and Hampton townships, Sussex County. DEP will manage the $12.4 million preserved property, as part of the 2,000-acre Bear Swamp Wildlife Management Area.

"Preserving properties like Culvermere demonstrates New Jersey's commitment to protect its natural resources and keep the waterways and forests a pristine habitat for local wildlife," said Acting Governor Richard J. Codey.

"The preservation of the Culvermere property protects the Kittatinny Ridge, whose contiguous forests stretch from High Point to the Delaware Water Gap," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "Culvermere was one of the largest privately held properties in Sussex County, and its preservation from the immediate threat of development is a credit to the persistence and advocacy of local leaders who are helping to fund the acquisition."

The ecologically valuable parcel, located off Route 206 and Morris Turnpike, is composed of rolling hills and oak, beech and sugar maple forest. Culvermere provides critical habitat for threatened or endangered species such as the bobcat, barred owl, northern goshawk, timber rattlesnake and wood turtle.

The property is the site of the former Culvermere resort and hotel. Built in 1892, the hotel became one of the most popular summer getaways in New Jersey until its destruction in a fire in the 1980s. Culvermere is zoned for both commercial and residential use and has been the subject of multiple development plans.

"The New Jersey Conservation Foundation was approached by a group of community leaders more than a year ago who wanted to save this treasured parcel of land from intense development pressures that had been building for 20 years," said Michele Byers, NJCF Executive Director. "Working with our many preservation partners statewide, today this dream is a reality. Culvermere will now be a managed preserve allowing for the protection of water quality and natural resources while providing public access for generations to come."

NJCF led a partnership of public and private conservation organizations and negotiated the acquisition of the property from Somerville-based Culvermere Alliance, Inc. The acquisition was supported by the DEP Green Acres Program, NJCF, the Nature Conservancy, Morris Land Conservancy, Sussex County and the townships of Frankford and Hampton. In addition, NJCF contributed a grant from the Victoria Foundation and The Nature Conservancy provided a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Conservation Resources, Inc. of Chester, and the Coalition to Protect our Land, Lakes Watershed were instrumental in obtaining contributions, including grants from the Conservation Fund, Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Conserve Wildlife Foundation, Sussex County Federation of Sportsmen, New Jersey Waterfowl Stamp Committee, Ruffed Grouse Society of New Jersey, and New Jersey Audubon Society. "Conservation Resources was delighted to help facilitate this unique project, which represents the first open space partnership between Sussex County, sportsmen's organizations and state and local conservation groups," said Michael Catania, president of Conservation Resources.